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THE ENABLING ACT. HITLER TAKES COMMAND. The Reich President could bypass the Reichstag and pass laws using Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.

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  2. The Reich President could bypass the Reichstag and pass laws using Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.

  3. However, Hitler was not Reich President, he was only Chancellor, therefore he had to rely on the continuing good will of Hindenburg. For the Nazi leader this was not enough and he set about trying to ensure that he would be able to control the country himself.

  4. The Enabling Law allowed Hitler to bypass the normal constitutional procedure of the Reichstag and the Weimar constitution. What did it say?

  5. ENABLING ACT Article One In addition to decisions made by the Reichstag laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich.

  6. Article Two Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

  7. Article Three Laws enacted by the government of the 'Reich' shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Law Gazette.

  8. Article Four Reich treaties with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies concerned with legislation.

  9. Article Five This law takes effect with the day of its proclamation.

  10. CONSEQUENCES Shirer - a modern historian writing in 1959 comments as follows: the act, ‘in five brief paragraphs took the power of legislation, including control of the Reich budget, approval of the treaties with foreign states and the initiating of constitutional amendments, away from Parliament and handed it over to the Reich cabinet for a period of four years.

  11. CONSEQUENCES Moreover, the act stipulated that the laws enacted by the Cabinet were to be drafted by the Chancellor and ‘might deviate from the constitution.’


  13. The main problem with attempting to pass the bill was that any changes to the Weimar Constitution required a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag. Even with the support of the DNVP the Nazis could still only command 51% of the votes.

  14. Hitler still needed the support of the Zentrum, in order to gain the requisite numbers. At the end of his speech Hitler attempted to allay the fears of any of the Zentrum by stating that the rights of the churches would not be touched.

  15. Issues such as a fear of communism, theological anti-Semitism and anti-feminism, brought the Nazis the support of the Zentrum.


  17. Also, the Kroll Opera House (the Reichstag had moved there since the fire) was surrounded by armed SA and SS men, who hounded the SPD delegates and obviously scared the Zentrum members.

  18. The chamber was decked out in swastikas and other Nazi symbols; it was an atmosphere of intimidation and inspired fear and awe.

  19. The end of Hitler’s speech contained an implicit threat of what would happen if the law did not pass. “The Government offers to the parties of the Reichstag the opportunity for friendly cooperation. But it is equally prepared to go ahead in face of their refusal and of the hostilities, which will result from that refusal. It is for you, gentlemen of the Reichstag, to decide between war and peace.”

  20. The bill was passed by 444 votes to the 94 of the SPD.

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